Yesterday was a lovely Saturday. For the first time in a long time, it was the weekend and it was sunny in London. Staying at home would be a crime, and when you live for so long in a city where most days are greyish when the sun does come out you value it more than ever.
In this very short story of mine, there are two outstanding things I’ll mention that are part of what makes London unique. One of those things is its unexpected hidden gems. Yes, these pics were taken in London.
For some time now I wanted to visit this amazing hindu temple located in Wembley (Shri Swaminarayan Mandir), that literally looks nothing like you would imagine London to be. When I saw the pictures online, it was as if it would be impossible to get this in the UK, even in Europe. As if someone had photoshopped the building in London’s geography, taking it from India and dropping it in London. However, Shri Swaminarayan was first Britain’s authentic Hindu temple.
Unfortunately, in my photographs, you won’t see Swaminarayan Temple. Keep reading to know why.
The amazing thing about these times is technology. GPS technology, to be more specific, is a lifesaver for me (yes, I am the kind of person that can get lost in its own street). Therefore, I did a quick search in Google, applied the address in Citymapper (which, for those who are not familiar with, is an app that tells you the best ways to go somewhere, which transports, tube lines, bus numbers, how much time it takes you and even how much it costs), and followed the exact instructions for the quicker route. I got to Wembley Central station, and I walked for about 15 minutes to this temple I wanted to see so much.
As I expected, the area is completely inhabited by Indians. I felt like I was in a different country, and never felt so white in my whole life. The smell of curry was everywhere (which to be honest it made me a bit nauseated, not being used to it and actually not liking it). Both sides of the street were dominated by Jewellers and retailers selling the most beautiful fabrics and colourful, rich saris. I’ve always had this fascination for India being right on my top 10 countries outside Europe I want to visit very, very much. I think is such a beautiful and rich culture, and I always find myself impressed with how majestic it is, being imprinted in intricated jewellery and architecture, in the colorful fabrics, even the food is so rich in spices and condiments (again, not my favourite thing, but I admire the cultural component on it).
But this is just another great thing about London – we get to have a taste of different cultures, and broaden our minds by doing so.
I tried to ignore the intense curry smell, that was stuck on my nostrils for about 2 hours after leaving the place, and walked to the temple. I found it. This amazing architectural treasure, so warm and at the same time so imposing. For a moment I just stared, amazed. My eyes couldn’t stop in one single part of it. There was much. the intricacy of all of it amazes me, and every single corner seems to have a meaning, a story to tell.
But then, it hit me. That wasn’t what I have seen in the pictures. That wasn’t the same temple. Yes, you are allowed to laugh at my ignorance.
That wasn’t Shri Swaminarayan temple. It was Shri Vallabh Nidhi temple.
I came back home, because my trainers were actually hurting my feet for a reason I can’t understand, but apparently Citymapper kindly thought I meant this temple rather than the big white one, the image I had on my mind (that I’ll visit once I get another sunny weekend). I was easily misled because they are located in the same area, just on opposite sides.
This is the second amazing thing about London: no matter where you end up, at every corner, there’s something new, something to discover, something off the beaten track.
So, in a way, it was actually good that I let myself be misled by Citymapper!